At the end of August it was announced that director Doug Liman was departing Fox's in-development Gambit movie. He had chosen to jump on-board another comic book movie that had been in development hell for years, DC's Justice League Dark (which will now be known as Dark Universe). Fans were excited at this prospect, mostly because it meant there was now forward momentum on it again, after it had languished for years while Guillermo Del Toro (who had been attached to write and direct) pursued other avenues.
But, the participation of Liman in particular is something to get excited about as well. He is a director with one of the most varied and diverse careers in Hollywood. His work spreads across many genres and budgets; from large scale action pictures to micro budget indie films. He is also a vastly experienced producer, especially in television. While his efforts haven't always been entirely successful, it's intriguing to wonder what a man with this many talents can bring to a DC Extended Universe film.
In this article we will look at the 7 major films he has directed, and rank them from worst to best. Enjoy!
7. Jumper (2008)
Jumper was released during a weird time in movie history, when executives and money-men thought Hayden Christensen was leading man material. Only a few years removed from his reviled turns as Anakin Skywalker in the second and third Star Wars prequels, Christensen effectively ended his run as a movie star with Jumper. The movie was reviewed terribly and failed to make back its budget at the domestic box office.
On paper, Jumper had promise. The supporting cast included Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell and Diane Lane. The story, about a teenager with teleportation abilities who finds himself embroiled in an ancient war between his kind and their sworn annihilators, sounded like the basis for a fun movie. Liman's last two movies had been solid hits, and he had proven his chops at handling action scenes.
And yet, the movie was a dull, truncated bore that squandered all the promise it had. Oh well.
6. Fair Game (2010)
Liman limped from Jumper to another dud in 2010. Fair Game, a biographical political spy drama starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, must've felt like the right move at the time. A return to a lower budgeted affair, Liman could show everyone that he hadn't lost his touch and could deliver a thought-provoking movie.
Unfortunately, it didn't make much of an impression with audiences or critics. It is Liman's lowest grossing studio film, and even the reviews were fairly middling. While Penn and Watts were praised for their performances, it wasn't a film that lived long in the memory.
It was actually third time unlucky for the two actors, who had previously starred together in 21 Grams and The Assassination Of Richard Nixon, both much more critically acclaimed films.
5. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
These days, Mr & Mrs Smith is probably best remembered for giving the world 'Brangelina', the ultimate really, really ridiculously good looking celebrity couple.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie met while starring in this fun romp, playing a husband and wife who are unaware that both are actually assassins working for competing agencies! Naturally, they are contracted to kill each other, and action-packed hilarity ensues.
The movie was a massive hit, and is still Liman's highest grossing effort to date. The director expertly handles the tone of the story, which could be wonky in the wrong hands. It would be very easy to make it too funny, meaning no one could take any part of it seriously. Equally, he could've made the action too big or too intense, which would've overshadowed the lightness of tone. But he struck the right balance here, making the movie a blast to watch.
4. Go (1999)
Go is an underrated gem of a movie. Sometimes dismissed as a Pulp Fiction-lite movie for teenagers and college students, it has really stood up over time as an entertaining and clever piece of filmmaking.
It tells the story of three different groups of young Californians on one particular night, as they do and deal drugs, score money and sex in Las Vegas and generally experience the rush of free-wheeling youth.
The film is simultaenously funny, dramatic, quirky, menacing and features a superb young cast, many of whom went on to become stars. Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Timothy Olyphant, William Fichtner and Taye Diggs all appear throughout, and there is even a small role for a very young Melissa McCarthy. She's doing pretty well for herself these days.
3. Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)
Edge Of Tomorrow. Or is it Edge Of Tomorrow: Live. Die. Repeat? Or is it All You Need Is Kill?
This was a movie of many titles, but truly the only thing that mattered was that it was a return to form for Liman after the one-two gut punch of Jumper and Fair Game. Between 2010 and 2014, all Liman directed were two episodes of a TV series entitled I Just Want My Pants Back. Perhaps he was burned out after the relative failures of his last two movies? Or perhaps he just hadn't been inspired by any scripts that had come across his desk?
But he got back on the horse with Edge Of Tomorrow, and while it didn't set the box office alight, it did do well enough to warrant a sequel. Crucially, though, it was reviewed extremely well and audiences loved it too. Liman and Tom Cruise were a match made in heaven, with Cruise delivering a sly inversion of his usual action-hero persona. Liman also cast extremely well for the female lead, as Emily Blunt is utterly superb in her role. The story is great fun, and the action scenes and CGI effects are exhilarating.
2. Swingers (1996)
This was the uber-successful indie comedy-drama that launched Doug Liman onto the scene. It follows a group of single, unemployed actors in the eastside of Hollywood in the height of the 1990's swing revival (a time of renewed interest in the swing and blues music of the '30s and '40s). It is not, rest assured, a movie about married couples who have casual sex with other married couples. That is a completely different type of swinger!
While the movie may seem slightly dated now, as the fashions and technology simply scream the '90s, it still holds up in terms of the humour and the easy charm of the performances. Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau are perfect here, their chemistry never better. Their real-life friendship completely translates on film. Favreau's script is smart and insightful when it comes to the neurosis of these guys' lives.
Oh, and just try to watch the movie without saying 'You're so money' to all your friends afterwards. It's nigh-on impossible.
1. The Bourne Identity (2002)
The Jason Bourne franchise tends to be associated mostly with the creative partnership of Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass. That makes sense, given that they collaborated on 3 of the 5 movies.
But, Greengrass was not the first director to bring us Damon as Bourne. In 2002, Doug Liman, a huge fan of Robert Ludlum's source novel, gave the world The Bourne Identity. In doing so, we reckon that he forever changed how spy movies were constructed in the modern age. He was responsible for setting the tone and building the foundation of a muscular franchise that Greengrass was then able to build on further.
The Bourne Identity is a thrilling and intelligent movie in equal measure. Again, similarly to Swingers, certain aspects of it may look dated these days (especially the technology). And Matt Damon looks incredibly young. But neither of these things detract from the story, which is bang on, or the scintillating action sequences. Everything in this movie feels real and lived in. There's very little sheen or glamour, and Liman makes the most of his European locations, all of which are not areas we usually see in Hollywood entertainments.
We reckon it's one of the best action movies ever made, actually. And definitely Liman's best movie.
What say you? Do you think Liman is a good fit for Justice League Dark? Do you agree with our countdown? Let us know in the comments section below.